Foundation Directory Online vs. GrantStation: In-Depth Analysis & Review

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December 6, 2022

Last Updated:

January 3, 2023

Shopping around for the best value grant discovery platform for your nonprofit? Torn between Foundation Directory Online (FDO) and GrantStation? Read this article to help you make the most informed decision.

Both FDO and GrantStation are well-known in the fundraising world. FDO’s been around since before the internet. Back then, it came as a huge printed volume.

GrantStation’s reputation has grown partly due to its partnership with the Chronicle of Philanthropy. Paid Chronicle subscribers receive free access to GrantStation.

So how do these two grant discovery platforms compare? Let’s take a deep dive and learn more.

Foundation Directory Online vs. GrantStation Features Compared

Product Features

Grant discovery platforms offer a variety of different tools and features to help users find funding. Below, we’ve outlined the different features offered by Foundation Directory Online and GrantStation so that you can see how these two platforms stack up against each other. The main features we focus on are:

  • Finding new RFPs and funders
  • Tracking prospect research and submissions
  • Collaboration and reporting
  • Customer support

Let’s take a closer look at each.

FDO Features

FDO has a strong reputation for its library of foundation profiles. FDO’s database includes small family foundations and funders without websites, as well as large, well-known funders. Depending on your subscription level, FDO can give extra insights into these foundations, including average and median funding amounts, geographical interests, and more.

FDO’s search abilities are agile, allowing users to search by exact funder name, funder interest, geographic area, names of key contacts, and EIN.

Profiles also contain helpful data breakouts including bar chart comparisons of grant amounts, heat maps of funding distribution, and areas of interest.

FDO Features

FDO also lists open RFPs on its website and also via its daily e-newsletter, Philanthropy News Digest. There’s a drawback to searching RFPs, though—the lack of a geographic filter. If you’re a nonprofit in Maine, for instance, you’ll have to pick your way through an array of opportunities across the U.S. to find a good fit.

One of FDO’s most recent changes is their new tool, My FDO Dashboard. The Dashboard provides basic grant management tools. These include:

  • The ability to create projects
  • Stored prospect lists
  • Submitted grant proposal tracking
  • A contact list
  • Next-step tasks to ease follow-up

Another one of FDO's biggest drawbacks is that teams can't collaborate online. That means you'll need to find external solutions to allow for collaboration.

By being a part of Candid, FDO also offers subscribers access to Candid Learning. This feature includes live and on-demand training and a knowledge base about all things nonprofits.

Candid Learning

FDO’s customer service is standard with chat available during business hours as well as email support. 

GrantStation Features

GrantStation Features

GrantStation originated at the height of the bubble in the late 1990s. Originally conceived to serve nonprofits in Alaska, over time, its database has grown and today includes foundations and other funders in both the U.S. and Canada, as well as internationally.

The platform allows users to search for potential funders from private, corporate, and community foundations. You can also search by keyword, areas of interest, grantmaker name, or EIN.

GrantStation also provides a user dashboard that allows users to create projects and save specific search criteria and good-fit funding opportunities. They also offer a convenient email feature so you can send RFPs to yourself or a colleague.

GrantStation’s "2020" feature allows users to pull reports on who has funded them, what proportion of your organization’s total budget is coming from grants, and more. And its Decision Matrix feature helps further identify and narrow down best-fit opportunities precisely for your organization.

GrantStation offers a generous amount of live and recorded webinars and online courses, three weekly newsletters, a blog, and a career development feature. Some of the offered courses are approved for continuing education credits from the Grant Professionals Certification Institute.

Unfortunately, GrantStation offers no collaborative features and has an outdated user interface.

Foundation Directory Online vs. GrantStation Pricing Compared

Price Tag

So how much do these tools cost? Is one less expensive than the other? Let’s dig into their pricing structures.

FDO Pricing

FDO offers three different tiers of pricing—Essential, Professional, and Enterprise.

FDO Essential

The lowest tier is FDO Essential, which offers a month-to-month single-user option of $49.99. While month-to-month offers flexibility, this is the most expensive option. And, the cost goes up per number of users.

It’s also important to note that FDO Essential does not provide access to its entire database of almost 250,000 funders—instead, users can only access 111,000 funders.

FDO Professional

The next highest tier, FDO Professional, offers additional features as well as access to the entire 250,000 funder database.

If your organization has more than 10 users, you’ll need to contact FDO to get a custom quote for their Enterprise package.

GrantStation Pricing

GrantStation Pricing

GrantStation is upfront about its pricing structure. You can pay by the quarter, the year, or for a two-year term. Of course, the quarterly price is the most expensive.

Access for a quarter is $219, or $73 per month. A one-year subscription costs $699, or $58.25 a month. A two-year subscription comes in at $52.41 per month, due and payable in one lump sum of $1,258. You can even purchase a three-year membership for $1,782.

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What Are Customers Saying About Foundation Directory Online and GrantStation?


Customers are always the best source to learn about dealing with a company of any sort. So, we dug around and found some real customer reviews on both FDO and GrantStation.

FDO Reviews

We found that users consistently give FDO a lot of love. Some of this may be due to how long it's been in the marketplace. However, some users, such as the reviewer below, question how frequently the information on FDO is updated.

FDO Reviews

And this user, on another review site, agrees that FDO streamlines the grant research process but also notes that it is a little costly if you want all the features.

FDO Reviews

GrantStation Reviews

GrantStation Reviews

GrantStation’s customer service is well-regarded, at least by this gentleman from Cornell University.

In terms of unbiased and independent reviews, though, we couldn’t find anything—although GrantStation itself posts glowing testimonials from clients, such as this one.

GrantStation Reviews

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Is There a Better FDO or GrantStation Alternative? Instrumentl Explained


Now that we’ve gone over the pricing and features of FDO and GrantStation, do you wonder if there might be something better out there?

There is. It’s Instrumentl.

Instrumentl is the new kid on the grant discovery platform block, but it’s much, much more. Let’s unpack that.

Instrumentl Features

Instrumentl allows you to search for funders and RFPs, check out 990s, and save your search results. But check this out—it also uses Smart Matching technology to find new best-fit funders for you even while you sleep.

Instrumentl’s matching algorithms never rest. You’ll get weekly updates on new funders fitting your search criteria, updated deadlines, and new or changed focus areas.

Instrumentl Features

No more hunting and pecking for RFPs! You’ll be able to effortlessly view RFPs and 990 details right there within the funder profile.

Instrumentl RFPs

What’s more, Instrumentl lives in the cloud and offers robust collaborative tools providing users the ability to assign tasks, post notes, save contacts, and pull reports for internal and external audiences. This means you can manage each of your proposals throughout the entire grant lifecycle.

Instrumentl also allows you to easily create reports in either a convenient PDF format or as a CSV.

Instrumentl Reports

As well as all these time-saving features, Instrumentl also hosts free educational webinars and has a blog covering everything from grant writing 101 to how to build a logic model. And Instrumentl’s customer service is best in class.

Bottom line: Instrumentl has all the grant seeking capabilities you want, plus the grant management and collaborative tools you didn’t realize you needed. Ditch the spreadsheets and do yourself a favor. Contact Instrumentl today for a free, no obligation 14-day trial.

Instrumentl Pricing

Instrumentl Pricing

Instrumentl offers four pricing tiers with different features. The most affordable is the Basic tier which runs $179 a month if purchased as an annual membership at $2,148. This allows for three licenses and the creation of up to 10 projects.

The Standard plan is $3,588 for a year, or $299 per month. Besides all the features of the Basic plan, Standard allows for the creation of up to 20 projects, and includes the following:

  • Foundation discovery
  • Advanced funder insights, including openness to new grantees, where they give, grant ranges, and giving by cause
  • Recipient profiles
  • Creation of a centralized calendar

Instrumentl’s Professional plan runs $5,988 per year or $499 per month. Again, the fee must be paid at one time to capture this rate. The Professional plan includes the creation of up to 50 projects. Additional features at this pricing level include:

  • Personalized support and training
  • Integration with Salesforce
  • Calendar integration with Outlook, Google, and iCal calendars

Finally, for very large enterprise accounts (think large universities, medical facilities, and the like) Instrumentl’s team can create a custom plan to suit your organization’s needs.

Instrumentl Reviews

What do customers say about Instrumentl?

They love it!

Grant pros using Instrumentl say it saves time and helps them be more organized. Whether in-house grant writers or freelancers, users rave about Instrumentl’s features, its intuitiveness, and its built-in collaboration tools, which are particularly great for remote workers.

Instrumentl Reviews

And, Instrumentl’s world-class customer service is also a plus.

Instrumentl Reviews

Along with this, Instrumentl is also a rich educational resource. Besides its blog, Instrumentl sponsors live and on-demand grant writing classes taught by top grant experts, as well as providing e-books, guides, and more.

Wrapping Up: Foundation Directory Online vs. GrantStation: In-Depth Analysis & Review


Both Foundation Directory Online and GrantStation are solid grant research tools, but neither offer the comprehensive grant management, prospecting, and tracking features Instrument does.

That’s why we believe once you try Instrumentl with our free two-week trial, you’ll be convinced. Sign up today to start finding good-fit funders for your nonprofit.

Instrumentl team

Instrumentl team

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